Our 8-legged friend the spider has had a bit of a rough time in terms of its popularity with us humans. It’s believed there are around 43,000 types of spiders in the world, and while all of them have fangs and close up look like killing machines, most of them pose no danger to the average human. They are almost all venomous, meaning when they bite they release a toxin into their prey so they can paralyze the victim and munch on it later. According to an article in The Washington Post in 2015, about 7 Americans die on average each year from spider bites in the USA. That was far fewer deaths than bees, wasps, and hornets caused, and a third of the deaths that cows caused.
Contrary to what horror films may have tried to tell us, the big hairy tarantula, such as the massive Goliath Bird-Eating Spider, is not one of the most dangerous spiders out there. In fact, you’d have to annoy it considerably for it to bite you, and then it may only feel as painful as a bee sting. The amount of venom it releases is nothing for us to worry about. We thought we’d get that out of the way first, as these kinds of spiders are often portrayed as being deadly.
One guy that can turn your day into a bad one is the brown recluse spider. You’ll find these all over the central and southern United States. Sometimes they live outside in dark places, but they do find their way into homes. The good news is that they rarely bite, and only bite humans most of the time because some part of your body has trapped them. If bitten, you may feel a small stinging sensation, but you should go to a hospital right away for treatment as bites can lead to tissue damage if not treated correctly. You can find reports of people dying from these bites, but it’s usually due to complications, just as people can die of a wasp sting. An unfortunate Alabamian boy was one such person, who died in 2014. These guys are pretty small at less than an inch in width.
Another spider commonly seen in the U.S. is the wolf spider. Like the brown recluse, they usually don’t bite if you haven’t accidentally put it in some kind of uncompromising situation. They do however look mean close up, and they can move very fast. If bitten, you should clean the wound and seek medical treatment, as there is always a possibility of an allergic reaction. Still, these things are not considered too dangerous. They only measure about one inch in width depending on what kind it is, so it won’t creep you out too much.
Another small spider, but one that has caused all kinds of mayhem, is the Black Widow spider. As you can guess by the name, you don’t see too many males as they are often killed by the females. If bitten by this tiny thing, you may start to feel sick, and breathing can be hard, as they can cause paralysis of certain muscles. Most people do get over this pretty quickly, but they can be deadly to little kids or the elderly. Fortunately, even they though they have very toxic venom, when they bite, they don’t give you the full dose. In 2011, it was reported that a man from Colorado died after being bitten 19 times, but that was a very rare occurrence. Many spiders, in fact, may not want to give you their venom as they need that stuff to kill their prey. If they waste it on you, they could starve to death as they need time to create more.
A relative of the Black Widow is the Brown Widow. If it bites you, the symptoms are very similar to that of the Black Widow’s bite. The paralysis is usually temporary, but you can imagine how scary that would feel. It might also lead to further complications. You can find them in many parts of the warmer world, and people have died when bitten. Depending on which source you are reading, some people say they are more deadly than black widows and other sources say less so.
Another spider also in the same family as the last two, is the redback spider. We know these are deadly because a recent report in the Australian press noted that a redback was responsible for the country’s first spider bite death in almost 40 years. A young man was bitten when hiking around the coast of New South Wales. He was given antibiotics, but still succumbed to the venom. You can’t miss this spider because, as you can guess, it has a red back, or a red stripe down its back. About half the people bitten by a redback will suffer fairly serious symptoms, and before the anti-venom was introduced, these little critters killed often.
Even though Australia is famed for all kinds of things that can creep up on you and kill you, there are only two deadly spiders in the country. The redback and also the funnel-web. Depending on what source you are reading, some people say the latter spider is the most deadly in the world. Nonetheless, it is reported that Australia hasn’t seen a funnel-web death since 1979. They are medium-sized spiders, and look a little fat and ugly to say the least. The bite is painful straight away, but worse will follow. This could include difficulty to breathe, nausea, muscles spasms, writhing around on the floor, and at the worst you could be lying unconscious, with big black pupils, intermittently twitching. After that, you may die.
Another spider in Oz which is feared, but not regarded as too dangerous, is the mouse spider. There are lots of varieties, but all have very strong fangs and some varieties are said to have venom as toxic as the funnel-web. They are black and shiny, medium in size, and quite bulbous looking. The good news is that they are not seen too often and don’t have a very aggressive personality. While their venom is considered deadly, they often just give you a dry bite – no venom. For that, we can say we like the mouse spider. If you do get bitten, you can take the funnel-web anti-venom, and that is said to be very effective.
If the funnel-web isn’t on the top of the lists of world’s deadliest spider, then the Brazilian Wandering Spider is. The Guinness Book of Records has it down as the most deadly spider, and there are many freaky and disturbing stories about this critter. If bitten, first it is really painful. Then, as with the spiders we have mentioned, your body could become paralyzed in parts while for hours you suffer intense pain. For men, this could also include a painful erection that lasts for hours, known as priapism. As the name suggests, it comes from Brazil (also other parts of South America), and its nature is not to stay at home in a web, but to wander around. This can mean wandering into homes. They only release their venom in a third of bites, but there are many reports of these bites being deadly within hours. There is an anti-venom, which is some good news. The large spiders – they have about a 6 inch leg span – have also been known to hitch rides to the UK in bunches of bananas. In 2017, The Sun newspaper reported, “Hundreds of the world’s most venomous spiders burst from a bunch of bananas.” This happened when an egg sack burst open on an unsuspecting mother. It took pest control three days to clean-up her house. Had those things been allowed to grow-up, we don’t even want to imagine. In 2005, a British chef was actually bitten after dealing with a load of imported bananas. He was lucky enough to be able to identify what it was and receive the anti-venom. Still, it took him a week to recover. He told the BBC, “I was never scared of spiders before, but I certainly am now. I do feel very lucky, though it was extremely painful.”
So, have you ever been bitten by a spider on this list? How did your body react? Let us know in the comments!